LA Affairs: My grandma made a boyfriend before I did

When my 88-year-old grandmother Hilda found a boyfriend before me, I was caught between the joy of her happiness and the pity for myself that I hadn’t been so lucky in romance. She emailed me to share the news of her match and added at the end, “My aunt used to tell me that every pot has its lid, and that’s true! I am sure it will happen for you. “

But as the months went by, I continued to be single and mopping while Grandma happily fell in love.

Hilda ̵

1; our family is affectionately known as Omama (grandmother in German) – hadn’t met since the death of my grandfather Hershy 20 years ago. Grandma and Hershy had met at a New Year’s Eve party at UCLA. Omama was just finishing her bachelor’s degree and Hershy was working on his PhD in psychology with the help of GI Bill. She tells a famous story that she immediately knew was “The One,” even though it was six weeks before he finally called to ask her out on a date. She still wears her wedding ring as a tribute to her marriage, which lasted four decades. 

He was the love of her life and proof to her children and grandchildren that a long, happy marriage was possible. They enjoyed running together. Grandma’s shelves were adorned with pictures of her and Hershy at the finish line of various races in Los Angeles over the decades, with big grins on their faces. Grandma and Hershy were #life goals.

Since Hershy’s death, Grandma had spent most of her evenings lately studying Torah or watching Jeopardy alone. She grew up in Berlin and was able to flee Nazi Germany with Kindertransport, an organized rescue operation that brought almost 10,000 Jewish children to Great Britain in the late 1930s. From there, Grandma emigrated to the United States and her family started a chicken farm in Van Nuys.

She was often asked to speak at public events about what she had experienced in Nazi Germany. In April 2015, the Burbank City Council invited Omama to be honored at City Hall for speaking to middle and high school students about her experiences during the Holocaust. They informed her that another awardee would pick her up and drive her to the event.

Grandma was surprised when they sent a 92-year-old Austrian Holocaust survivor dressed in leather oxfords and a felt hat. His name was Herb.

As the City Hall event ended, Herb drove Grandma back to her Studio City home. As he drove to the house where she raised three boys, he paused and asked, “Would you consider going out to dinner with me one evening?”

Grandma said she hadn’t given Herb an answer, but the next day he emailed her repeating his request for a date. Omama called my father (her youngest son) for advice. “I do not know what to do. I don’t really know him, ”she said. My father told her that he was sure that the man would be fine at 92. And so, with my father’s blessing, Grandma agreed to accompany Herb to dinner.

Grandma and Herb quickly bonded over their trauma of fleeing the Nazis and the experience of rebuilding their lives in Los Angeles. Their weekly meetings expanded into more frequent company. Herb drove Grandma to the theater and Trader Joe’s, and Grandma made Herb for dinner. Soon she was no longer looking at “Jeopardy” alone. She began to affectionately refer to Herb as “Herbie”.

Grandma was particularly impressed that Herb could drive a car at his age. He was ready to take her wherever she wanted, including Lake Hollywood for her daily walk with her hiking group.

And yet I was single and rocked.

Grandma emailed me again, this time with a photo of Herb and her at Lake Hollywood. Herb had since joined the hiking group and kept pace with the kilometer pace. I responded with my congratulations and my wish to find a herb too. Grandma wrote back quickly, “Love is in the air so you will soon have one. In love grandma. “

She also added a forwarded email from Herbie herself with dating advice to share with me. It warned against consuming alcohol – “Stay away from bars; What you meet there is unlikely to be of quality. ”He advised only meeting people from dating sites in public until they have been deemed trustworthy -“ Use extreme caution with dating sites. ”And go ahead all: “Be yourself. Be what you are. Be real. “

It turned out that Grandma was a fortune teller. Later that year, Christian (6 feet 3 with a bio proclaiming “Let’s make art”) appeared on my Tinder screen. I swiped right and asked if he’d like to meet on Sunday. “I have plans for Sunday. Thursday?” Ah, a man with plans. A man who makes plans. A millennial unicorn.

I met Christian, an internet man, in a bar who broke two of Herbs’ rules at once. We met in public so I got that right. I had made my way to the agreed meeting point and prepared for another bad first date. I walked up and down the block, afraid I might be too early, but as I approached the front door I saw that he was too early too. We talked for hours and drew together on a piece of paper. Art things. We drew crossing lines, lost in good conversation and smoky mezcal.

I called my parents to tell them about my happiness: I had met someone I like, who likes me too. “But you won’t like his name,” I said. His German surname sparked the question of what his grandparents were up to during World War II (how it turned out to be fighting for the Allies). But when my parents met Christian, they appreciated his gentleness, his enthusiasm for talking to my father in German and playing tennis with my mother. He also brought a sturdy jar of homemade catnip for the family cat. I found my Herbie.

Christian and I have been together for almost six years now. We wanted to get married in front of our family and friends last October, but the pandemic thwarted our plans. Since we had decided not to postpone our wedding, we were legally married by our rabbi in a private ceremony on October 9, 2020. Our big wedding with family and friends has been postponed to summer 2022.

Herbie and Grandma, now 98 and 95 respectively, are still going strong. At Granny’s last Birthday party in my parents’ garden in Redondo Beach, I looked over to Christian and Herb, who were two wonderful men, greeting each other, and smiled at the happiness my grandmother and I ultimately shared.

I’m looking forward to seeing my grandmother with Herbie at the wheel next year in the parking lot of our wedding location.

The author is a psychotherapist and author. You and Christian have a rescue dog, Clover.

Grandma and Herbie on one of their daily walks. 

Grandma and Herbie on one of their daily walks.

(Julia Simone Fogelson)

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